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Around three million people in the UK have kidney disease

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Kidney Research UK has responded to the organ donation consultation, as Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt emphasises the importance of families having conversations about their wishes.

The Government consultation on moving to an opt-out system of consent (also known as presumed consent), shifting the balance of presumption in favour of organ donation, closed on 6 March. With legislation underway simultaneously, through a private member’s bill which passed its second reading last month, it is hoped that the input into the consultation will help iron out the detail of the Government’s proposed change in approach.

“The proposed move to presumed consent presents a huge opportunity for kidney patients, 5,200 of whom were waiting for a transplant last year,” said Peter Storey, Director of Communications at Kidney Research UK. “With the right healthcare infrastructure, research and the sensitive management of eligible donors and their families, more kidneys could be made available more quickly to people in desperate need. However, the issues are complex, and presumed consent in isolation could not be the complete answer.”

Addressing the information needs of specific groups with culturally-sensitive engagement is a high priority to Kidney Research UK. “We have a concern that changing to a default of consent could increase the risk of some people deciding to opt-out – this risk is most acute in some Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities, particularly some faith groups,” said Mr Storey. “Awareness of the opt-out system and discussing individual’s reactions to it may be more effectively achieved through forms of peer-to-peer communication, as pioneered through Kidney Research UK’s peer educator model.”

Engaging through his Facebook page on March 5 for a live question and answer debate, Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said: “We are committed to increasing the number of successful transplant operations – the NHS will find the resources.”

He added: “457 people died last year because they were not able to have the transplant operation they needed. The main purpose of this change is not to increase the state’s right over your body, it’s to increase the amount of people who talk about their wishes to be an organ donor with their families.”

Kidney Research UK advocates ongoing research into a number of healthcare improvement areas, including which interventions would increase donation rates among specific population groups. Medical research is also vital. “We want to give every single precious transplanted organ the chance of long-lasting success,” said Mr Storey. “Investment in research, such as that funded by Kidney Research UK, is essential to make a step change in making transplanted kidneys work better and last longer.“

We look forward to seeing how the Government responds to the many individuals and organisations who have contributed to the consultation, and what shape new legislation takes.”

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